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Times Mirror to Sell Unit

April 28, 1998|From a Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Co. said Monday that it will sell its legal information publishing operations to British-Dutch media company Reed Elsevier for $1.65 billion.

Times Mirror, publisher of the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, said it expects to report a total gain of about $1 billion, or $10.50 per share, on the sale of New York-based Matthew Bender & Co. and its 50% stake in Shepard's. Reed Elsevier already owns the other half of Shepard's, the nation's leading legal citation service.

Proceeds of the sale will be used to retire short-term debt, to buy back company stock and possibly to make acquisitions in the professional training and consumer health publication areas, the company said.

"Our strategic review of the legal publishing marketplace led us to conclude that the future growth of Matthew Bender and Shepard's would be best achieved if they were part of a global legal information provider," said Mark H. Willes, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Times Mirror and publisher of The Times.

The purchase would make Reed Elsevier, which bought the Lexis-Nexis online information service in 1994, the largest publisher of analytical legal information in the United States, said Herman Bruggink, co-chairman of Reed Elsevier.

The sales price is substantially more than analysts had predicted Times Mirror would receive for all of the assets it has on the block. Times Mirror also is planning to sell its Mosby health sciences publishing operation.

"These are much better-than-expected numbers on the disposition," said James M. Marsh, an analyst with Prudential Securities. Marsh said he had expected that Times Mirror would receive $1.3 billion for Matthew Bender, its 50% stake in Shepard's and Mosby.

Times Mirror is evaluating several offers for Mosby. The Matthew Bender and Shepard's sale is expected to be completed this summer.

Times Mirror shares fell 69 cents to close at $58.13 on the New York Stock Exchange in a broad market sell-off.

Matthew Bender, which began publishing books in 1887 and was acquired by Times Mirror in 1963, had 1997 earnings before tax, interest and exceptional items of $59.2 million on sales of $192.9 million. Shepard's had 1997 earnings before tax, interest and exceptional items of $38.5 million on sales of $67.9 million.

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